Comparing the Expansion: Vegas vs. Seattle Round 1: General Manager

The Seattle 32nds are just three off-seasons away from being a real team and we all know that they’ll constantly be compared to the Vegas Golden Knights because…well, why not?? They’re both coming into the NHL within five years of each other, they both are going to fill out the Western Conference, and we’re a culture of comparisons and results– therefore, it’s time to get the wheels going on the comparisons for nothing more but summer content.

On Thursday, the Seattles made their first plunge into the world with Ron Francis being named the team’s first general manager. Francis comes from the Carolina Hurricanes, where he was GM from 2014 until 2018 when he was let go after new owner Thomas Dundon came in. While he had a year off, Francis will have a fresh slate to start off with being at the helm.

VGK COMPARABLE: The Golden Knights were introduced in June of 2016, with their hiring George McPhee in July of 2016. With only two off-seasons to prepare, the Seattles definitely are giving Francis more time to settle. McPhee was still within the game after being dismissed as the Capitals GM in 2014, though– like Francis– had a year off before moving on in his personnel career.

Back to Francis, his tenure in Carolina was short and not so sweet. With only four seasons, Francis didn’t see the playoffs at all and never cracking the 90-point plateau. While the young core was building, he didn’t get to see it through with his dismissal before this miraculous run this year in the playoffs. While he does have that “good hockey guy” label, it’s not necessarily a good thing if he cannot get results from this new team that he’s specifically putting together.

VGK COMPARABLE: McPhee stepped into Vegas with 14 years of GM experience with the Capitals, including eight 40-plus win seasons, seven Division titles, one Presidents Trophy, and one Stanley Cup appearance. He was through the ups and downs and ups again with the Cup final, blending into the desperate times of acquiring an unmotivated Jaromir Jagr which led to the Caps Fire Sale and then the building up the team around Alex Ovechkin. Being through all of those events definitely helped McPhee be able to adjust and got some fate from VGK owner Bill Foley to give him the reins of the team.

The next big step is to start looking for a coach. With the team not starting for another three seasons will be a hard sell for Francis, which is not something Vegas had to deal with as they only were one season out from their start. The biggest question is will Francis go with someone who’s established and already been through the cycle of the NHL or will he actually start with someone fresh and clean and ready for an opportunity like this.

VGK COMPARABLE: McPhee was able to get Gerard Gallant in April of 2017 in the off-season before their start. Thanks to the Florida Panthers silliness, McPhee really lucked out on him and it’s been the best choice so far, as the Stanley Cup appearance and two consecutive playoff appearances have showed. While it is a bit of a luck of the draw for coaches, you can say that Vegas put their money on the right number on the coaching roulette table.


So there we go– the first round of the comparisons everyone is going to make. When you look at it long-term, Vegas has the advantage in spades. They got a GM who was established, knew the league, knew what to do in different situations, and knew who to put in charge. No disrespect to Francis, but his short track record is suspect; though you can say it may rank up with an “Incomplete” grade considering he was there for a shorter time than some.

The Reboot of Hunter Miska

Coming out of Minnesota-Duluth, there were high hopes for Hunter Miska. Sure, he only put in one season, but got the Bulldogs to the final of the National Championship, was the most outstanding goaltender in the NCAA, and looked to be on a solid collision course with success in the pros; especially since he signed with the Arizona Coyotes— who probably was looking for a young, hungry talent to be the new franchise goalie.

Then…something just didn’t click. While he did have a stellar rookie season with the Tucson Roadrunners (22-9-0), his sophomore season wasn’t all it was cracked up to be with a 10-8-4 record, coupled with a 3.08 GAA and .889 save percentage. Because of that– he wasn’t tendered and became an unrestricted free agent. He caught on with the Colorado Eagles for the 2019-20 season, but how did he get there from a promising outlook out of his one year in the NCAA??

Maybe it was just that– only one year in college when he should have taken another year or two more in order to get his game a little more honed before jumping– but can’t blame someone for wanting to get paid for their job. That first year looked promising as many players didn’t have tape on him to figure him out, but obviously the fate was changed in year two while Adin Hill and Merrick Madsen passed him by on the depth chart.

An upside for Miska is that he has a winning pedigree. Before his time at Duluth where he help lead them to the National Title game, he was a big part of the Penticton Vees BCHL title in 2015, while also being named top goalie in the league that year. Following that, he went to the USHL and helped Dubuque get to the Clark Cup Finals in 2016, though he and the Fighting Saints came up short.

With a new team and a new reset on his career at a young age, it could be crunch time for Miska, especially since he’s only under an AHL contract and the Avalanche do have a bit of goaltending depth coming up. He’ll be teamed up with Adam Werner, who will be coming over from Sweden for his first North American season– which could be a bit of an opening for Miska to get playing time should Werner struggle getting adjusted to the North American style.

You just hope that for Miska’s sake– the risk he took coming out of the college early didn’t stunt his progression moving onward in his career.

On the Topic Of Da Beauty League

Photo via DaBeautyLeague.com

I don’t think I get Da Beauty League. And that’s fine.

A lot of it has to do with the name of the league, especially with the fact I don’t use the hockey lingo in an unironic fashion. Just like how people call the EA Sports NHL line “Chel.” The whole short-speak doesn’t really register with me…until I use it as goofs and then it works in way to my vernacular and I become the worst.

Overall, though, I guess I don’t get the idea of it. Granted, it’s a nice alternative than just guys doing dryland and private skates. It puts them in a game-type situation, but it seems like it would be a big risk of injury from some kind of freak accident that they’ll endanger their NHL contracts for a time to be in a rec league.

While it does fill the void for some people who are in the “live hockey 24/7” camp; it just seems like something that’s somewhat unnecessary. Call me “not a real fan” for not wanting to see pro players play rec hockey…but I also hate the All-Star Game, so at least my opinion of this sort of thing is consistent.

But, like I said– it does give guys variety in their summer workout, the league does get sponsorship, and it seems to appeal to a certain sector of people who can’t go three months without watching hockey in the summer. That’s fine, I get that– and you could call it supply-and-demand if these Minnesotans or other hockey fans travel up to pay to watch these guys play in a rec setting. And there is a charity element to this, which is very awesome and should be at the upfront of this, but I’m not a marketing wizard– so I don’t make these moves. Hell– they even win a keg named after John Scott as a championship. Such a hockey bro thing to do. And that’s fine.

Maybe it’s a part of me getting older, maybe it’s watching too much hockey during the season that burns me out for the off-season, maybe it’s looking back at how I was when I was in that 24/7 mindset and shut off other things trying to get people to tune into hockey– which may or may not have made them tune out due to annoyance factor. Hell, it could just me not being their demographic. I just don’t understand that whole lifestyle thing anymore since I don’t play at a competitive level (or at all) anymore. And that’s fine.

Good on them for doing it and give some segment something to get excited about during the summer…but I guess it’s not for me. And that’s fine. Because things don’t have to be for everyone. Just don’t be an asshole about it on either side of the fence.

2019 Free Agency Day One: Talking is Fine, Offer Sheets are Fine, Big Money is Fine

Unlike Corey Hirsch– who I respect as a solid voice on commentary– I don’t have a problem with the talking period that the NHL has instilled in the league prior to the Free Agency period opening. Honestly, it actually makes things more fun when it comes to guessing where players are going. In fact, even if there’s some contract details that leak out– that’s fine– less work for everyone and people in Canada can actually enjoy their day off for Canada Day.

Even with the terms of collusion and tampering coming up– if the team that had their contract wanted then so badly; they would have given the offer they wanted before it got to the courting process. Maybe by talking to other teams, it gives the leverage to the players in getting more money on where they’re at now. It’s a thing that these players fought for in terms of getting free agency earlier and then be able to choose where they want to be.

And choose they did.

As of this writing, 118 players were selected to a total of a 229 years in contract terms and almost $700M in contract dollars being thrown around on the first day of the new season.

When it comes to big splashes, you have to think the Florida Panthers made some move in not only picking up Sergei Bobrovsky after Roberto Luongo retired and James Reimer was traded, but smaller deals like Brett Connolly, Noel Acciari, and Anton Stralman give the Panthers more of a well-rounded look to them.

The biggest fish was, of course, Artemi Panarin, who went to the New York Rangers for seven seasons. At just over $11.6M a year, that’s a lot of dough to throw around for a team that was in the middle of a rebuild that has seemingly been put on hiatus. With many fans being happy for the move, the more logical among them are cautious when it comes to the move; citing that it’s a fancy move, but maybe not one to propel them far in the playoffs if they get there.

Though the best move of the day had to go to Marc Bergevin by actually have a pair to give out an offer sheet…and to have the player in Sebastian Aho sign it. There’s plenty of bonus money in the deal, including $11.3M in the first year and $9.8M in the second year. If nothing else you have to give the Canadiens credit for at least attempting something.

While all signs put to the Canes matching the offer, this was the year that teams needed to make offer sheets on RFAs or else it was a worthless clause to have in the CBA. One of the biggest things now is to see what will happen, if anything, when it comes to Mitch Marner. It does add another layer to the whole process; which is something we didn’t think we’d ever see again.

Tepid Take: 2019 NHL Draft Fallout

The 2019 NHL Draft weekend has come and gone and what a weekend it was, huh?? Personally, it’s my 16th Draft and third working for the University of North Dakota. For those stories about Shane Pinto, Harrison Blaisdell, Judd Caulfield, and Brad Berry’s reaction— go to those links in the name.

Shockingly– there was more that went on. I know. So, here’s a rundown of that from me…with the most tepid of takes.

First, you can’t really talk about what happened after before you talk about the salary cap being set at $81.5M, which was a bit of a lower figure than many people thought it would be. Luckily, having it happen before the draft gave teams the time to scrambled to see what they can get done. Which…some did.

Toronto was the first to make a salary dump– which they needed to do anyway if they wanted to re-sign Mitch Marner to a big money deal. They unloaded the Patrick Marleau contract to Carolina, along with both swapping picks. Marleau’s contract has a year left and with the uncertainty of Justin Williams’ future– it’ll provide a veteran presence with this team– just in case they needed it coming off of last year’s wonderful run.

With that move, it effectively took the Maple Leafs out of the running for PK Subban; which was actually a possible destination for the Nashville defenseman….well, ex-Nashville defenseman.

Subban was moved to the New Jersey Devils for prospects and picks going to Nashville– which probably moved the Predators in the running for Matt Duchene. But to Subban– this is the second trade he’s been through, which is odd for a guy that is considered one of the premier defensemen in the league. Three years left on the contract for Subban and the Devils needing some experience back there seems like a good fit.but as much as he wants a Stanley Cup in New Jersey– it could be quite and uphill struggle to get that.

As for the Draft itself, it was a Draft that USA Hockey won’t soon forget. Seventeen players from the US National Development Program were selected and 59 US players were picked overall. It’s a huge boost to the program in itself and really shows how much the USA program is evolving and catching up to their Canadian counterparts, who had 63 players picked overall.

Overall, players jumped, players fell, the Draft is usually something you can’t tell will pan out until five years down the line and they graduate where they’re from and maybe make it to “The Show” in that time frame.

Vancouver was fun overall, personally. It’s the first re-run for me and I didn’t have my running buddies with me all the time and didn’t have a Dufferin experience– but overall it was a good time.

Next up for the NHL, it’s the free agency talking period leading into the free agency period and everyone forgetting they own a calendar and asking if it’s October yet.

On the Topic Of Second-Screen Viewing

As the St. Louis Blues closed out their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, the NBC machine rolled on with all the stock lines that Mike Emrick has compiled through his years of broadcast and recycle them for this moment. Pierre McGuire talked to a player and told him to have fun. Eddie Olczyk was probably looking at the race form for the track tomorrow. Then when their NBC slotted time was up, they all left and let the NBCSN crew take it from there.

That’s when I thought…why are they just now getting a bigger chance on the biggest stage for their sport?? It seems like they had to be put in some position post-game to warrant getting shipped out there and all of that. There’s times in Jeremy Roenick’s interviewing that you prayed for Pierre to come back and talk to these guys– because he knows how to and JR really doesn’t.

It also makes me wonder if there’s a chance that NBC and NBCSN can team up for possible clinching games to have a two-screen experience and an alternate to their regular coverage that people would want to see. Granted, that would maybe hurt ratings by splitting them, but ratings are in actuality a scheme created by boxing and wrestling to make something bigger than it actually is and in the end– it means nothing. I mean, hell– NBCSN was showing tape-delayed Monster Jam episodes which, I’m sure has an audience, but they’ll still be watching at midnight and beyond for that stuff or during one of the many replays they’ll have.

The second-screen thing for a championship has been done before by NBC and NBCSN for NASCAR’s final race of the year in Homestead. The main network had the usual race broadcast with the regular broadcasting crew, whereas NBCSN had the in-car cameras for each of the Championship 4 contenders, more in-car audio, and alternate commentators to give another side of the spectrum.

Granted, the two sports are different animals, but you have to look at the possibility of alternate camera work, alternate broadcasters, or even a possible “Watch Along” thing where there’s people brought in to comment over the game, as if you were in a bar setting. It’s something that maybe by that time– people are sick of Doc, Eddie, and Pierre, maybe people would like a different take, maybe people want another option, and– like me– maybe people cut the cord and have a crappy antenna and live in the middle of nowhere so they can’t get local channels unless they get YouTube TV….or something.

Yet, what better way to create a buzz for your broadcast than to have different viewing options for the biggest games?? Sportsnet has like 190 different channels that they could do the same thing with different people. There’s plenty of talking heads that can be there to fill the void of the dead spaces, so what’s the issue with having an alternative to the original?? Some people may like the traditional way better, whereas you could hook some new people onto the alternate voices, as well. Variety can be good and having options is great, too. Couldn’t hurt to try.

Tippett Becomes Eighth Coach in Past Decade for Oilers

For the life of me, I don’t know what Dave Tippett is doing. The former Arizona Coyotes’ head coach is now the current Edmonton Oilers head coach, leaving the adviser role he had with the new Seattle Your-Name-Heres and moving into a spot that could be one of the hottest seats in the NHL.

There has to be some respect for him to take on the challenge rather than laying back easy and waiting for the Seattle team to talk. And let’s be honest, with the way teams are with coaches in the recent past– he still could be the first coach of the Seattle team. Yet, you have to think that he got that itch again and the wait would be too much for him– so Edmonton it is.

There’s no doubt to have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the line-up, it’s give the team a fighter’s chance at making the playoffs. However, the biggest deal is…well, everyone outside of those two is the big worry. That albatross of the Milan Lucic contract looms heavy, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is constantly in the rumor mill, the defense and goaltending is suspect at best– so there’s work to be done.

Granted, the whispers of the possibility that Mike Smith is going to Edmonton to follow his buddy Tippett doesn’t bode well long-term for the Oilers; but it hasn’t been stable in net since Bill Ranford left. The defense has plenty of potential, but there comes a time where potential is overdone and disappointment/anger/hatred comes into play– if it’s not already there in Edmonton.

For me, this almost seems like an older version of Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan from a few years back for Edmonton. I know the whole problem with the Oilers before was the old-boys club being in charge and the thought with Chiarelli and McLellan was they ditched that moniker. Now, with Craig MacTavish finally gone and Paul Coffey being let go it; could be a real new start for Ken Holland, Tippett, and crew– but Kevin Lowe is still hanging around– so who knows.

It’s a pivotal time for the Oilers. You have to think the time is ticking to get Connor McDavid to be happy with where he’s at. Hell, his name is already being murmured when it comes to being moved if things don’t get better soon. His no-move clause starts in 2022-23, so there’s three seasons to get it right or else he may want his way out of Edmonton. The question is whether or not Tippett is the guy to spark the team around McDavid and Draisaitl or if it’ll be the third coach for the Oilers to have two great assets, but can’t get to the playoffs due to the team around them.

On the Topic Of the Wild and Jason Zucker

You’ve got to feel bad for Jason Zucker. First, he was on his way to Calgary before the deal fell through at the last second. Now, he’s the center of deals that didn’t happen and aren’t going to happen. It seems that Zucker is the new guy perpetually on the trade block until someone actually feels the need to have Zucker on their roster.

According to Michael Russo of The Athletic, Zucker’s name was in the middle of trade proposals for Phil Kessel, Sam Bennett, Michael Frolik, Christian Dvorak, Jonathan Marchessault, and Brock Boeser. The first and last being very laughable that they would have been considered with reports saying Vancouver laughed at Paul Fenton and hung up the phone.

Look, Zucker is a solid player with three-straight 20-goal seasons– but you can’t think he’d be an equal return for the likes of Boeser and Kessel especially. And maybe, it’s the system that he’s in that’s not really bringing the best out of him like when he was a Denver University or playing with the US Development Program. That said, it’s less a Zucker issue and more of an issue of what is wrong as a whole with the Wild.

It’s almost as if they need to blow the team completely up from top to bottom and start fresh. It’s not a new coach or new GM situation– that’s been done and the team still seems to be spinning their wheels; a deadly happening for a team in the Central Division. Paul Fenton needs to make moves, but trying to attract any kind of big name players are futile because those players don’t want to go there because of the lack of playmakers around them– as was the reported case with Kessel vetoing the deal to Minnesota.

This is a team that, for some reason, doesn’t move forward. Since that gonzo run in 2003, they’ve made it to the playoffs eight times in the last 15 seasons and have only made it out of the first round twice to lose to the Blackhawks both times. With their core getting older, you have to wonder how many chances Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin will be given in a bigger role and how much they’ll be able to step up in that role. There’s plenty of potential in both of them, don’t get me wrong, but will they be able to thrive in the Wild system and given a chance to show off their style of play.

For someone like Zucker, you have to wonder how much this is going to affect his psyche and what he might do in the future with this team. He’s a professional and probably gets that this game is a business, thus why he protected his own by getting a modified no-trade in his contract for ten teams NOT to be traded to and this could be Fenton doing his due-diligence to see what they could get…but he’s taking the whole “you never know if you don’t ask” credo too far. This could be another Matt Duchene in Colorado situation for Zucker and the Wild– which, if true, could be damning for the Wild and extremely positive for Zucker.

2019 Playoffs: Stanley Cup Final

The Final is upon us and it’s like it’s 1970 all over again.

BOSTON BRUINS vs. ST. LOUIS BLUES
PREDICTION: Blues in 7
REASON: Look, the Blues look like they have been on a mission. It’s a battle of depth, it’s a battle of goaltending, but when all is said and done– I think the Blues are more of a team than the Blues– but not by a lot. The first lines match-up well, goaltending, but I like the heart of the Blues more than anything else and I think they’ll be more hungry than the Bruins to get this storybook ending they deserve and the city deserves.

2019 Playoffs: Conference Finals

Went 1 of 4 last round– batting a total of 25% on the playoffs, so here goes a whole lot of nothing.

BOSTON vs. CAROLINA
Prediction: Carolina in 7
Reason: I’ve been low on Carolina, but they’ve done great. They’ve also got a longer layoff, which would be great this time of the year, especially with the injuries they’ve encountered recently. Even if Petr Mrazek is done, Curtis McElhinney has been stellar, while Sebastian Aho is starting to really turn to form with Justin Williams there. That said, Tuukka Rask has looked better than ever and could very well carry the Bruins onward.

SAN JOSE vs. ST. LOUIS
Prediction: San Jose in 7
Reason: They’ve gone seven the past two series, why not a third?? Martin Jones has really turned it around for the most part, while Joe Pavelski coming back could very well give them the jolt they may have needed. The defense may need to tighten up a bit, while Jordan Binnington could be their toughest foe goalie yet. Also, Jaden Schwartz has been stellar and David Perron could be the thorn in the side needed to maybe rustle the Sharks’ jimmies.